Obama’s Warning to Syria Comes Amid Iranian Directives to Transfer Chemical Weapons to Hezbollah
Information gathered by U.S. intelligence officials that Iran’s leadership has pressed Bashar al-Assad in Syria to move stockpiles of his chemical weaponry to Hezbollah led to President Obama’s remarks earlier this week that any deployment of Syrian chemical weapons would be a “red line” for the U.S., according to the Maariv Newspaper in Israel.
“We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region, that that’s a red line for us, and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front, or the use of chemical weapons,” President Obama said on Monday. “That would change my calculations significantly.”
According to the Maariv report on Friday, Iran is making the request to Assad because the country’s leadership does not believe the Syrian strongman will hold on to power for very long. Syria acknowledged it’s arsenal of chemical and biological weapons last month, and the stockpile is believed to be one the largest in the world.
In late July, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned about Syria’s chemical weapons falling into the hands of Hezbollah.
“Could you imagine Hezbollah, the people who are conducting with Iran all these terror attacks around the world – could you imagine them having chemical weapons? It would be like al-Qaida having chemical weapons,” he said.
The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week that the U.S. military does have a contingency plan in place for securing Syria’s chemical weapons, while on Thursday, Turkish and U.S. officials met in Ankara to discuss plans to counter the threat posed by Syrian chemical stockpiles, as the country continues to destabilize.
“That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria. It concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel,” Obama said on Monday. “It concerns us. We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.”